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2012 Legislative Preview (and Interim)

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Key Issues for 2012 Legislative Session Identified

During the 2011 Utah General Legislative Session, more than 100 bills were introduced dealing with public education. For 2012, the story may be the same. The UEA Legislative Team has identified about a dozen key issues that may be considered. Four issues have been identified as the top priorities for the Association:

Public Education Human Resource Management Act

A comprehensive bill proposed by Sen. Aaron Osmond, under the title ‘Public Education Human Resource Management Act,’ would make changes to Utah’s Orderly School Termination Procedures Act and may impact certain employment practices such as collective bargaining. Members of the UEA Legislative Team are having ongoing conversations with Sen. Osmond to ensure it meets the needs of educators and other stakeholders.

Sen. Osmond and Supt. Shumway sponsored a series of meetings around the state in early November to hear feedback on the proposal. Nearly 1,000 teachers turned out to express their feelings.

More about the Public Education Human Resource Management Act

Collective Bargaining

Several legislators have indicated interest in ending public sector collective bargaining. Legislative efforts to ban collective bargaining have been successful in a few states. Legal challenges to these efforts are pending and some face voter repeal petitions. Voters in Ohio recently voted to override such a ban enacted there.

At the request of its chairs, the Interim Education Committee agreed to “study whether to prohibit a public entity, or public education entity, from engaging in collective bargaining.” So far the only public proposal to restrict collective bargaining is by Sen. Osmond (see above).

“Eliminating collective bargaining would leave rights of public sector workers, like teachers, unprotected,” said UEA Policy and Research Director Jay Blain. “These changes would undermine collaboration and silence the voice of teachers in impacting reforms that could improve student achievement.”

More about Collective Bargaining

Public Education Orderly Termination

The State School Board and some members of the legislature are recommending the elimination of the Utah Orderly School Termination Procedures Act (Utah Code 53A-8). This act provides the minimum standard and due process for the termination of school employees.

Those favoring this approach cite the lingering perception that it is difficult to remove poorly performing teachers from the classroom. Those opposed fear elimination of due process rights could result in reduced protections for employees and the potential for increased litigation to challenge terminations.

“Our goal is to work with the legislative body to overcome the misunderstanding that school districts cannot fire bad teachers,” said UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway. “We may be able to partner with the legislature if the goal is improving teacher quality by revising the termination procedure to become more transparent and efficient. We cannot partner if the goal is simply to end due process and career status for educators.”

More about Public Education Orderly Termination

Payroll Deduction of Association Dues

Nationwide, several bills have been introduced and a few passed out of state legislatures that eliminate payroll deduction for association dues.

Generally these fall into two types of legislation – those that eliminate payroll deduction for dues, often for educators alone, and those that imposes such difficult restrictions it becomes impossible to collect dues this way. Following one of these national models, Sen. Howard Stephenson has discussed crafting a payroll deduction bill for Utah public employees.

“Regardless of the method, it’s difficult to argue the move to eliminate payroll deduction is about anything but politics,” said Holdaway. “It is clearly a national strategy to weaken our Association and silence our voices.”

More about Payroll Deduction of Association Dues

Other Issues

The UEA Legislative Team has identified many other issues that may be considered during the 2012 General Legislative Session.

More about other issues to be considered

Governor Announces 2012-13 Budget Recommendations - December 13, 2011

Gov. Gary Herbert announced a recommended FY2013 Utah state budget that increases state public education spending by $111 million, for a total public education budget of $2.5 billion. His budget calls for $41 million to help cover an anticipated enrollment increase of 12,500 new students and another $21.5 million to add 1 percent to the WPU. According to Herbert, the WPU hike will allow school districts to give many teachers their first salary increase since 2007. Other new allocations in the Governor’s budget proposal include $10 million for early intervention programs, $12 million for expanding student adaptive testing and $2 million for charter school start-up funding...more

Education Interim Meeting - November 16, 2011

By Jay Blain

The Education Interim Committee received updates on statewide online education, the proposed Public Education Employment Reform Act, and school grading in addition to a report from the State Office of Education.

Statewide Online Education

The Committee heard several reports on online education in the state, especially as it relates to the passage of SB65: Statewide Online Education Program in the 2011 Legislative Session.

First to present was Utah Connect, a consortium of seven school districts: Davis, Granite, Murray, Jordan, Park City, Nebo and Tooele. Rep. Stephen Handy and Davis School District representatives Sue Winkler and Patty Brown presented the Utah Connect program. They said online learning was not the best situation for all students, but it works best when schools make a personal connection with the students. They have a curriculum that is aligned to state and district curriculum standards and is delivered by Utah certified teachers. They have found three basic types of students that use online education: accelerated, credit recovery, and home school/hospital. It is imperative to have someone following up with the students all the time, they said.

The Utah Connect consortium curriculum is blended, without textbooks and online. They have worked hard to meet requirements of SB65 and to forge an interlocal agreement. They share teachers and resources. The funding issue is a big one for them. When 25 percent of the WPU leaves for just one credit, they wonder if the model is sustainable. They would like to do open entry and exit, but that would make the funding issue more problematic.

Rep. Patrice Arent asked about staffing concerns. They hope that as the program matures, students will preregister for online courses just like the do for regular courses. Their biggest problem is when a student starts an online course, the money gets transferred, and then the student comes back a few weeks later, they said.

Next to present was Laura Belnap from the Washington Online School, Washington County School District. She commented that all of their summer school and credit recovery is online. They have had some problems getting CCA forms to school and back, also there has been misinformation given to families. They have found that creating their own curriculum is cost prohibitive.

Next was Mark Holley, Provo School District. He said there has been some confusion about who is eligible for what. Online education is not a fit for every student, he said. They have used online courses as a marketing tool to get students back into their district from other choices in the market.

The Open High School of Utah was the next to present. They spent a lot of time telling about awards that they have won. They use an open source curriculum. They are a charter school not connected to any school district.

The last to present was Ken Grover, Salt Lake School District, representing Utah Education Online. They are a consortium of 14 school districts and 35 charter schools based in SL district. They use a blended curriculum of open source and already created courses.

Public Education Employment Reform Act (Sen. Osmond)

Sen. Aaron Osmond reviewed the three purposes/goals of his proposed Public Education Employment Reform Act. He then reported the general feedback he received from meetings he held. (See the Senator’s blog post for more details.)

Rep. Kay McIff commented on the negative effect this Act would have on the pipeline for future educators. McIff also remarked how we are asking the school system and justice system to step in for parents and the burden this creates for these systems. Rep. Steve Eliason expressed his thanks to Sen. Osmond for his candidness and forthrightness. Eliason mentioned his upcoming legislation about “360 degrees of accountability.”

Sen. Howard Stephenson reported that Utah legislators lead the nation in being in the classroom. Rep. Carol Spackman Moss said she was proud of teachers who showed up at meetings held by Sen. Osmond. She said legislators always hear from dissatisfied people at committee meetings because they are held during the day. “Maybe we should hold some meetings at night when teachers could come,” she suggested.

Sen. Osmond also reported that there is a disconnect coming from parents about what is going on in schools and what the legislature is doing. Rep. Arent stated that the legislature needs to show in a tangible way that we do care about the teachers. Sen. Osmond concluded by saying, “we have an opportunity to engage a significant asset, our teachers.” He said he will meet with the State Board of Education and other stakeholders and bring back changes to the bill in January.

Performance Pay

Representatives from the Utah Education Policy Center gave a report from the five elementary schools that participated in the performance pay pilot program. It was an extensive report with many findings. It will be released by the State Office of Education in the near future, she said.

Some of the findings presented were:

  • Collaboration is a key to any performance pay plan, both in the development of the plan and in the actual design of the plan.
  • Multiple measures need to be used, not just test scores. Focus on instructional quality, not just test scores.
  • In this pilot, there was no overall improvement in CRT scores when compared to students from one year to the next in the pilot schools, or when compared to matched schools or to the population of all elementary school students.
  • Be aware of burdens placed on teachers.
  • The amount of money was not a real driving force for the teachers ($2,600 was highest bonus, $500 was lowest).
  • Producing a valid measure of parent satisfaction was challenging.
  • You need to expend time and effort to gain buy in from all stakeholders.
  • If more of teacher pay is dependent on factors outside of the teacher’s control, it will further damage teacher morale.
  • Plans that worked were developed at the school level.

Grading Schools

The recommendation for implementing SB59: School Grading System is to use a growth to proficiency model. The school report cards will include a growth grade and an achievement grade. High schools will also have a college and career readiness grade. Sen. Wayne Neiederhauser said we needed to get the growth measurement right because schools don’t pick who attends there.

State Office Reports

State Supt. Larry Shumway reported a significant increase in reading achievement. He concluded that this shows a return on legislative investment in reading programs.

'Orderly Termination Act' Changes Considered - September 16, 2011

The Utah State Board of Education is considering draft legislation that would move school personnel policy from statute to individual school district board discretion and may make educators 'at-will' employees after a specified contract term...more

Proposals Target UEA and Public Schools - August 17, 2011

The Education Interim Committee is studying key issues that target the UEA and teachers' rights, including the elimination of collective bargaining for public education employees, a prohibition on collecting dues from workers' paychecks and 'tuition tax credits' for private schools. "These proposals do nothing to improve education for our students," says UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh...more

Education Interim Meeting - September 21, 2011

By Jay Blain

The new Utah Schools data portal was demonstrated for the Education Interim Committee by personnel from the Utah State Office of Education. This portal has many, many ways to explore school data and currently is on the front page of the USOE website. Committee members asked about being able to drill down deeper on comparisons and about getting more information on the site. They were warned about the time and cost of gathering the data and getting those comparisons into the site.

A report was given on SB59: School Grading System. It appears a good deal of work has gone into producing a system that is as equitable as possible given the constraints of the legislation. It takes into consideration the current status of the school and the growth of the school in determining the achievement of the school. It is by necessity somewhat of a complicated algorithm.

Sen. Howard Stephenson commented he thought it was too complicated and that he did not understand it. He also reported he has opened a bill file to allow schools that earn an “F” grade to be dismantled and then an RFP would be put out for the governance of that school. “We need to stop punishing children through the mediocre delivery of education,” he said. State Supt. Larry Shumway made a very strong statement about not punishing schools but supporting them in improvement. Sen. Aaron Osmond tried to shift the discussion to how we can provide resources and remediate struggling schools.

The other big issue discussed by the Committee was the governance structure of education. Sen. Stuart Reid reviewed his proposal that surfaced last general session in regards to placing the control of education under the governor. Some Committee members expressed concerns, especially Reps. LaVar Christensen and Jim Nielsen. Rep. Christensen brought up the executive order that created the four-day work week for state employees. He wondered what a Governor might do to education unilaterally over the authority of the legislature. The proposal was to provide details of what the system would look like before proposing a Constitutional amendment.

The last item had to do with graduation rate. The reason Utah’s rates differ from those reported by other sources is that the state is one of the few that has a statewide student identification number. This allows much better tracking of each student throughout their high school years and beyond.

Education Interim Meeting - June 15, 2011

By Jay Blain

The Education Interim Committee entertained discussion on the implementation of SB65: Online Education, a proposed bill concerning college and career readiness, and computer adaptive testing.

Online education: The Committee heard testimony from several individuals who have concerns about the online education bill. State Supt. Larry Shumway commented that the State Board has tried to move quickly to develop a website and put Board rules in place, but that some questions remain. Those questions include the level of participation required by a student in order for the first payment to be made, dealing with students who have a released period during the day and don’t necessarily have a place to be (there is no place available in some schools), and supervising students have don’t have a class assigned during a certain period.

UEA Government Relations Director Kory Holdaway asked Committee members to not assume that online courses are more cost effective. He expressed concern that costs for hardware, software, district supervision and space are not included. “This current law and rule (appear to ) create more problems than they solve,” he said.

The chief financial officer for Karl Maeser Prep Charter School shared grave concerns he has about the bill. The bill requires schools to pay online providers for students who elect to take online courses, yet the school’s fixed expenses remain the same, he said. He also expressed concern about predictability. “How can we budget when we don’t know how many students will be doing these online courses in advance,” he asked.

A representative from another charter school shared concerns about the progression of online credits over time. The school’s director said he can’t certify graduates if he can’t certify the online provider.

Patti Harrington, executive director for the Utah School Boards Association shared liability concerns for school administrators. Small schools and small districts are struggling mightily to put this together, she said.

Bill sponsor Sen. Howard Stephenson addressed some of the concerns, saying money is left for the district to help with student left with an empty period. He said telling a student to leave campus violates the spirit that a school is a community center, that delaying payment is problematic because districts get to keep money whether students complete courses or not (not true according to Supt. Shumway), and getting approval for providers is too cumbersome.

College and career readiness testing: The next item on the agenda was a proposed bill concerning college and career readiness testing. The new proposal would phase out the current UBSCT test for high school graduation and replace it with the ACT. The proposal would implement the ACT statewide beginning in 2012, with the potential for differentiated diplomas based on scores. Concerns were raised by Committee members about using scores for differentiated diplomas. The Committee voted unanimously to support the bill in concept. No public input was taken.

Computer adaptive testing: The final agenda item discussed was Computer Adaptive Testing. Rep. Greg Hughes lauded the effort of the State School Board in bringing this proposed bill. Utah is leader in this area that is why it is important for us to go forward now, he said. The bill contains $5 million in on-going money. Concern was expressed because of the multiple uses for these tests. The bill will be brought back for more discussion at another meeting.

Education Interim Meeting - May 18, 2011

By Kory Holdaway and Jay Blain

The first Legislative Interim Committee meetings were held today. Two new members joined the Education Committee. Sen. Aaron Osmond from Senate District 10 replaced former Sen. Chris Buttars who resigned from the legislature. Rep. Johnny Anderson from House District 34 will serve on the Committee during the interim period.

The meeting was spent discussing the bills introduced and passed during the past legislative session. State Supt. Larry Shumway addressed the Committee and responded to questions related to the various bills that were passed. The State Office of Education distributed a booklet to members of the Committee that summarized the various education bills.

Legislative questions were raised about the response from the State School Board surrounding the legislative desire to have funding go from the K-3 Reading Program and the Optional Full-Day Kindergarten Program to seek an RFP for increased technology for pre-school and early education intervention. Sen. Howard Stephenson stated that some in the legislature felt the return on investment for this expenditure was not at the levels he was comfortable with despite the data that shows significant benefit made by this investment.

Any educators with stories or information that supports the current funding for the K-3 Reading Program or the benefits of the Optional Full Day Kindergarten Program are encouraged to share that information with policymakers.

In addition, the Committee discussed changes in funding for local district students who attend UCAT courses during school time (see the Salt Lake Tribune story). In the past, districts received full funding for these students and UCAT received funding for these students as well. During the 2011 session, the legislature cut the district funding for the students for the time they attend UCAT courses. This represented a loss of $5.5 million to local districts. On Tuesday, Governor Herbert’s Educational Excellence Commission voted unanimously to encourage the legislature to restore the funding. The Committee was positive about restoring the funds, although it probably will take a special session to accomplish the appropriation.

Legislature Overrides Veto of Earmark for Transportation
- May 6, 2011

Education, other services may face future budget challenges

By Kory Holdaway

The legislature met May 6 in special session to override Governor Gary Herbert on bills he vetoed during the General Session. One bill the UEA was concerned about deals with transportation funding. Senate Bill 229 earmarks a portion of future sales tax increases to transportation projects, thus limiting the amount of revenue available for other critical government services, such as education. The legislature voted to allow this earmark to stand and voted to override the Governor’s veto.

We are disappointed in this override vote and feel this creates additional challenges for future education funding. The UEA will continue to advocate for sustainable and adequate public education funding. We recognize the connection between a strong public education system and a strong economy. Without greater attention to education funding, opportunities for meaningful employment will be limited and our economy will suffer.

2011 Legislative Voting Records

The Utah Education Association tracked more than 110 bills during the 2011 legislative session. The UEA has reviewed the voting records of legislators and highlighted selected bills voted on in the House and/or Senate that could have significant impact on public education and/or the UEA. This analysis is included in the 2011 UEA Voting Record. It is important to note that a voting record is but one of several indicators used to evaluate legislators. It does not explain the reasons a legislator voted a certain way on a bill, and in some cases the final percentage might not accurately reflect a legislator’s overall support for public education.

From bills affecting general funding, retirement and Association-related issues, lawmakers consider a wide variety of education-related measures during their 45-day session. In addition to using “final floor votes” on most bills, the UEA analysis includes committee votes and votes on important amendments. Often times these votes provide a more critical, or accurate, indication of a legislator’s support or lack thereof. The UEA encourages you to contact your legislators directly to ask them to explain their votes. Contact information for your legislators is available from the Utah Legislature look-up page.

View the 2011 UEA Voting Record Summary